Few strips take off

Many shows leave NATPE empty-handed

Despite holes in the marketplace and a general dearth of new product offered at NATPE this year, several new strips emerged from the convention with no clearances in the nation’s top markets.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark’s well-publicized TV venture, “LadyLaw,” was a slow seller. Despite meetings with several major groups, including one with Tribune Broadcasting last week, the show so far has not sold in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, which are essential to a launch.

Sources close to the show say ABC stations had expressed interest in airing the strip following “Politically Incorrect,” but the distributor, Skyline Distribution, is hoping for better timeslots.

Scott Towle, who heads tiny startup Skyline, said the lack of clearances is only a reflection of the late-breaking addition of Clark as host. Clark was signed just days before NATPE, and no new tape was available until the Mon-day of the convention. Towle hasn’t had time to show the tape to all the groups he’s interested in, he said.

“LadyLaw” wasn’t the only high-profile strip to emerge from the convention without major clearances. All Ameri-can TV’s game block, consisting of “Match Game 2,” “Card Sharks” and “Family Feud,” is still without a home.

A spokesman for All American said the company is looking for a group deal, which could still come after the Feb-ruary sweeps. The fate of some potential returning shows will be decided after the sweeps, perhaps opening a hole for the games.

Even though All American hired some new gameshow hosts and reshot the presentation tapes, its effort may have been harmed when Tribune Broadcasting pulled out of the project late last year. Stations were also cool to gameshows when this fall’s two new games failed to be the instant hits many expected.

Sources say that if All American does not get a group sale, it won’t damage its gameshow library by bringing the shows out for this fall in weak timeslots. While the games may not go this year, All American was able to clear its new talkshow “Arthel & Fred” in all three top markets.

Other strips that didn’t catch fire at NATPE were from smaller syndicators: ITC Entertainment Group’s “Comedy Court,” SeaGull Entertainment’s “Celebrity Showcase Live” and Western Intl. Syndication’s “Great Day!”

Chris Lancey, president of Western Intl. Syndication, said the hourlong morning strip “Great Day!” will probably be launched on a slow rollout plan. “We will go with or without New York, Los Angeles or Chicago,” he said.

ITC was hoping “Comedy Court” would ride the current wave of court strips, including the “People’s Court” re-make and the success of frosh strip “Judge Judy.” Matt Cooperstein, executive VP of domestic sales at ITC Entertainment Group, said he’s gotten offers on “Comedy Court” in a good percentage of the country and has closed some deals, but none in the top three markets.

“I’m optimistic we’re going to get it done,” he said. “It could turn on a dime. But because of the dynamics of the marketplace, if you’re not vertically integrated, it takes a little longer than it used to.”

SeaGull Entertainment has sold “Celebrity Showcase” to the Paramount Stations Group, which tested the strip earlier. So far, the show has not been sold in the top three markets, but because it brings in revenue from home shop-ping sales, both the syndicator and stations are less dependent on barter sales and top-market clearances. The strip is expected to launch in June with or without the top three markets, according to a spokesman.

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